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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 01:24 GMT
Ivory Coast leader urges calm
Crowd gathers outside French Embassy in Abidjan
Protesters vented anger on the former colonial power
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has returned from Paris after signing a power-sharing deal with rebels, which triggered angry protests in the war-torn country.

I ask all Ivorians to stay calm and go back home and wait for me to come and speak to them

President Laurent Gbagbo
Before leaving France, Mr Gbagbo appealed for calm, saying that mutual concessions had been necessary to end the four-month civil war.

The violence in the main city of Abidjan appeared to die down after a tense day during which French troops fired tear gas to protect their embassy and amid reports of foreigners being attacked on the city's streets.

Mr Gbagbo's supporters are unhappy that under the agreement he will lose some of his powers to a national unity government which will include the rebels.

Mr Gbagbo attempted to play down the unrest, saying "an accord of this nature automatically gives rise to a few excesses".

French President Jacques Chirac earlier urged him to take control of the situation.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Abidjan, a city of three million, accusing the French of imposing the agreement on their former colony.

"If they want to put rebels in government, do it in France, not here," said one Gbagbo supporter angrily.

Gunfire

Many among Mr Gbagbo's power base in southern Ivory Coast are outraged by the Paris deal - which brings rebel groups from the north and west into a new government of national unity.

Overturned car near French Embassy
There have been no reports of casualties
Protesters lit two bonfires outside the French Embassy's compound before being driven back.

A French school in the city was also reportedly ransacked, while protesters targeted a military base outside the city and cars which they suspected were carrying French nationals.

The BBC's Tom McKinley in Abidjan says that there has been some sporadic gunfire but no casualties have been reported.

There have also been demonstrations by Ivorians living in Paris.

Our correspondent says that foreign embassies are advising their nationals to stay at home while tension persists.

Interim government

Mr Gbagbo had a short meeting on Sunday morning with President Chirac - who urged him to restore order and tell his supporters that reconciliation was needed.

PEACE DEAL
President Gbagbo remains in power
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Non-partisan prime minister appointed
Government prepares fresh elections
Mr Gbagbo called on his supporters to stay calm, saying: "A crisis that lasts four months brings a heavy toll. So to get out of it mutual concessions are necessary, and I have made them."

Mr Gbagbo added that claims by the rebels that they would get the defence and interior portfolios were just rumours, but he will lose significant powers under the deal.

Mr Gbagbo said the new government, which is be headed by former Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, would be formed in the coming days.

He later left for Ivory Coast aboard a French government plane, taking off from Villacoublay air base near Paris.

African pressure

The power-sharing deal was sealed at a summit of 10 African leaders in Paris.

President Taylor of Liberia, on Ivory Coast's western border, said he was "very pleased," and President John Kufuor of Ghana, to the east, said: "It's all very positive and has everyone's support."

Open in new window : Ivory Coast
Click here for pictures of the conflict

But President Chirac warned that all parties "must respect the rules of the game that they have accepted".

The new government is to pave the way for new elections at an unspecified date.

The rebels, who originally wanted Mr Gbagbo to stand immediately, will be forced to give up their arms.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Tom McKinley
"Thousands of demonstrators thronged the streets to vent their anger at the former colonial power"
  The BBC's Paul Welsh
"The deal was agreed to reluctantly"

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25 Jan 03 | Africa
25 Jan 03 | Africa
25 Jan 03 | Africa
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